Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, paranoia, and the ventral basal ganglia

Clin Neuropharmacol. 1991 Dec;14(6):547-55. doi: 10.1097/00002826-199112000-00007.


Antidepressants have previously been associated with paranoid reactions in psychiatric patients. Five cases of paranoid exacerbation with the serotonin reuptake inhibitors fluoxetine and amitriptyline are reported here. Elements common to these cases included a history of paranoid symptomatology and the concomitant occurrence of depressive and psychotic symptoms. Complicated depressive disorders (including atypicality of course and symptomatology, chronicity, psychosis, bipolarity, and secondary onset in the course of a primary psychosis) may present particular vulnerability to paranoid exacerbations associated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Although the pharmacology and neurobiology of paranoia remain cryptic, several mechanisms, including 5HT3 receptor-mediated dopamine release, beta-noradrenergic receptor downregulation, or GABAB receptor upregulation acting in the vicinity of the ventral basal ganglia (possibly in lateral orbitofrontal or anterior cingulate circuits), might apply to this phenomenon. These cases call attention to possible paranoid exacerbations with serotonin reuptake blockers in select patients and raise neurobiological considerations regarding paranoia.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amitriptyline / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Basal Ganglia / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Paranoid Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / adverse effects*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Fluoxetine
  • Amitriptyline